Vaccine ban: Officials say new polio case detected in a toddler in South Afghanistan

Officials said on Friday that a new polio case has been detected in a toddler in Southern Afghanistan where the Talibans banned vaccination campaigns.

“The virus has been detected in an 18-month-old baby girl in Shah Walikot district of Kandahar province,’’ said Dr Hedayatullah Stanekzai from the national anti-polio initiative in the Health Ministry in Kabul.

He told dpa that this was the second polio case in Kandahar this year, and that it was detected in an area under Taliban control.

Shah Walikot is one of four districts in which the Taliban have banned vaccinations campaigns, he said.

“Besides Shah Walikot, Taliban have banned vaccination runs in Khakrez, Miansheen and Spin Boldak districts.’’

The head of the national campaign against polio, Najibullah Safi, said that the Taliban demanded to put their own people in the groups of vaccinators instead of government employees.

The militant group usually considers the vaccinators to be spies of the Afghan government or of international spy agencies.

According to Stanekzai, 120,000 children have gone without polio vaccinations this year, mainly in the south and east of the country where officials are striving to get children vaccinated at least eight times a year.

According to the Health Ministry, five polio cases have been detected in 2017 so far two in Kandahar, two in Helmand and one in northern Kunduz province, all of which are either heavily embattled or already controlled by the insurgents.

The contagious, crippling disease mainly affects children under 5 years.

It cannot be cured, but it can be prevented with vaccination.

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